2012 Orange Bowl West Virginia vs Clemson Odds, Free Picks and Predictions on ESPN 1/4/12

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: West Virginia vs Clemson 2012 Sugar Bowl Game Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 1/4/12: The 23rd-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3) and 15th-ranked Clemson Tigers (10-3) can both thank their conference affiliation for their spots in the Discover Orange Bowl Wednesday night. With three losses each, neither team would have sniffed a BCS bowl. However, the Mountaineers won a multi-team tie breaker to capture the Big East crown, while the Tigers recovered from a late season slide to win the ACC Championship. The conferences are arguably the two weakest of the automatic qualifiers, but it’s tough to penalize either program for beating the teams they were supposed to. In a battle of high-powered offenses, the Tigers are three-point favorites.

On the stat sheet, the Tigers and Mountaineers are eerily similar. Both rank inside the top 25 in terms of points scored on offense, with West Virginia averaging 34.9 points and Clemson averaging 33.6. Both offenses are pass-heavy as well, averaging more than 300 yards a game to rank inside the top 20. The Mountaineers have slight edge, ranking inside the top 10 in terms of passing yards, but the Tigers have more balance to their offense. Defensively, the teams are mirror images. West Virginia is allowing 26.3 points per game and Clemson allowing 26.2.

Not surprisingly, both teams have reliable quarterbacks leading their offenses and have plenty of firepower in the passing game. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has more than 3,500 passing yards this season to go along with 31 touchdowns. Freshman receiver Sammy Watkins has done a lot of the damage, topping 1,100 yards and catching 11 touchdowns. Fellow receiver DeAndre Hopkins topped 800 yards as well, and tight end Dwayne Allen caught eight touchdowns.

Western Virginia counters with Geno Smith, who is just shy of 4,000 yards passing this season. He has 25 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions, and he has completed 65 percent of his passes. Smith has a dynamic duo at receiver, with Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin both going over 1,000 yards. Bailey is the deep threat, averaging almost 18 yards per catch and grabbing 11 touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, Austin is excellent at going over the middle and moving the chains.

Although both passing attacks are loaded with weapons and likely to do plenty of damage, the X-factor in the game could be Clemson running back Andre Ellington. He has more than 1,000 yards rushing this year and has scored 10 times. While the Mountaineers have struggled to find a ground game all season, Ellington gives the Tigers’ offense an element of balance. He should be able to help the Tigers control the tempo as well as keep the West Virginia defense from keying in on Boyd and the passing game.

At the end of the day, this game has all the making of a shootout. Both offenses are blessed with some of the fastest receivers in the country, and Boyd and Smith will look to push the ball deep down the field early and often. The problem for West Virginia is that the lack of a running leads to some lulls on offense when the passing game isn’t clicking. Clemson has the balance on offense to put steady pressure on the Mountaineers’ defense, and when Watkins has been fully healthy this year, the Tigers haven’t lost a game. It should be a high-scoring game, and Clemson has the firepower to outscore West Virginia.

Prediction: Clemson Tigers (-3) Cover the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: Clemson -3 to cover the spread

2012 Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs Clemson
Date: 1/4/12
Time: 8:30 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: Clemson -3 Total: Over/Under 62

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